second-largest nation by area, is known for nefarious trade in #copper #coltan #cobalt #tin
and other #minerals
. But now, tens of thousands of #Congolese
are setting their sights on a different sort of illegal resource: #cannabis
The United Nations estimates that #Africa
produces 10,500 metric tons of cannabis — a fourth of all the marijuana in the world. Between 27 million and 53 million Africans use the drug, making up about one-fourth of all weed users worldwide. Congo, some narcotics experts believe, may produce more cannabis than almost any other African nation except South Africa.
Marijuana farming is illegal in Congo, where the rarity of record keeping, especially in remote regions like rural South Kivu province, makes it hard to chart the exact moment when the crop’s popularity exploded. But research by University of California, Berkeley visiting professor of geography Ann Laudati suggests 60 percent of famers in parts of eastern Congo’s Kivu — and 90 percent in some s — grow at least some cannabis. “Everyone but the priests,” is how one Congolese village priest described the prevalence of marijuana farming to Laudati. “It’s like the gold rush in America in the 1800s,” says Laudati of the excitement of some who have set their hopes on growing cannabis.
The appeal isn’t surprising. A resilient plant, cannabis can yield multiple harvests a year, beginning six months after sowing, says Laudati. And it needs little labor beyond harvesting and drying. It offers men like Koti the chance to stay at home rather than set off to the mines, keeping families together. And unlike minerals, which are hard to come by and in limited supply, cannabis is a renewable resource. “Many people smoke it, because it gives them work strength,” says Koti. “And many more people are using it than in the past.”
But while cannabis farming comes without the physical fears that accompany mining, it carries its own share of risks, wrapped in politics from across the Atlantic.🌱